I couldn’t help feeling a little self-conscious while Jericho looked over my procedure. I was quick with tools, extremely accurate due to years of practice under pressure and my small hands allowed me to maneuver repairs that men would need special tools for. I knew what I was doing. Still, with Jericho watching it felt more like a test than what should have been a routine process.
I was just about to put the final screws into the metal foundation of Jacer’s arms when I was stopped.
“Here, use these—they hold like a dream.” Jericho popped some shiny new screws of a variety I’ve never seen into my hands with a wink.
Aster tried to stifle a snort of laughter by disguising it as a cough and I scowled at her. “Thank you, Captain,” I said loudly, hoping to draw the attention away from her outburst.
Jericho nodded and I got to work setting the screws. After Jacer’s skeleton was finished, I got to work mixing the foundation for his skin.
“What is that exactly?” Jericho asked, leaning in to smell the concoction.
“I’m surprised you don’t know, seeing as we found it on your ship,” I teased. “It’s a special kind of polymer that doesn’t harden; it keeps the resilience and texture of human skin.”
Jericho wrinkled his nose. “That explains the vases that the cook gives me each year as a birthday gift.”
“I’d seriously consider tossing those if I were you,” said Aster, giggling.
I pulled the old folds of Jacer’s skin together and spread several thick layers of the polymer over it to seal the opening. When I was finished you could hardly tell that it had ever been split in the first place.
“Alright, now all we’ve got to do is wait until it dries. It will take a few hours to set completely and it’s best to let him recharge for a while anyway.”
“Great! Who wants some tea?” asked Jericho good-naturedly.
“I’d love some,” I said, wiping my forehead with the back of my hand. “Aster?”
“Actually, I’d like to have a shower. You two enjoy yourselves.”
I snapped my head up in alarm just in time to see Aster’s playful grin disappear around the corner.
Jericho gave a dashing bow and offered me his arm. “I think a hot cup of tea would do you a world of good. I’ve got an extremely capable crew so I can spare a bit of time while they patch up the ship. Would you be so kind as to accompany me to the kitchen?”
Sighing heavily, I linked my arm with his. There didn’t seem to be any harm in it.
Once in the now empty kitchen, Jericho gestured for me to take a seat while he busied himself with a kettle. I watched him in fascination. He was humming to himself as he took out two mugs, a canister of sugar and some strange looking tea leaves. After a few minutes he filled the cups with the steaming water, threw a few leaves into each of them and set one in front of me.
“Those are ire lily leaves native to a tiny tropical island you’ve likely never heard of,” he began, giving his own mixture a light stir. “They are named so because the nectar brewed from these sweet leaves is most delicious, but the flower they grow on is covered in the angriest red thorns.”
I took a sip of tea and immediately felt every muscle in my body relax. “Oh my, that’s exquisite!”
He grinned and took a sip of his own. “I thought you might enjoy it. Look, Eddy, I was hoping I would get a minute alone with you, it just happened sooner than I’d expected and under harsher circumstances. I need to know just how serious you are about going to Fyre.”
I looked into his eyes to gauge his sincerity and made the difficult decision to trust a man I barely knew. “It’s the only lead I’ve got. If you decide you can’t take us then I’ll have to figure a way to get there myself. Any figure you name, I can pay it if it’s money you’re concerned about.”
Jericho shook his head and placed his hands over mine in what I could tell was an uncommon gesture for him. “You’ve got spunk, kid. I’m less worried about money than what will happen to you lot without me around. I don’t usually get attached to the people I pick up, but then again they don’t usually come to my aid or the aid of my crew the way you three have. I just want to make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into.”
I gave him a tight smile. “I’ve been preparing for something like this every day since my father’s death—I know the risks involved.”
“Good,” said Jericho, clapping me on the shoulder. “I’ve got to get back to overseeing the repairs so why don’t you get yourself cleaned up? Oh, and another thing, you and Aster both will have to wear men’s clothing once we get there. On Fyre there is only unspeakable horror in store for women.”
He squeezed my shoulder again before leaving me alone with my thoughts and a cup of tea.